Part 20: Baya Malay, Part 2
Chapter 20: Baya Malay, Part 2
I'd assumed my father had died long ago in one of Lassic's prisons. But here he was, pale and thin from long captivity, but very much alive. Tears of joy welled in my eyes.
"Dad!" I shouted, hugging him. "You're alive! Are you okay?"
His greeting wasn't as warm as I'd expected, but I guess he was still trying to take in what was happening. I had so much to tell him. So much to-- how could I break the news of Nero's death? Nero, his son, his favourite child.
I never felt like Dad treated me differently because I was adopted. He was always a good father to me, and I loved him. But even so, Dad and Nero had some special connection that I never quite felt. I was always a little jealous of him for that. Maybe it was because he was his biological son, or maybe it was just because he was a boy. Either way, I didn't think Dad was in any state to hear about his beloved son's death right now.
Telling him could wait, I decided. For now, I had to take him to Eppi. He could hide safely there until I killed Lassic... or for the rest of his life, if I failed.
"Everything's going to be okay now, Dad. I'll get you out of here and take you somewhere safe."
His voice betrayed no hint of recognition, or even of happiness at his rescue. Just... resignation. Hopeless acceptance of his fate. Despair.
"Dad! You know who I am, right? It's me, Alis!"
"Alis..." He said my name as if it was an unfamiliar foreign word. "Alis. Should I remember you? Have you been locked up here for long? Every prisoner in here seems the same as the last after a while..."
I tried everything I could to bring back his memory. I told him stories of all the times I played in the park with him and Nero or listened to his tales of his own childhood on Motavia, but it was no use. Whatever Lassic and his servants had done to Dad during his imprisonment, they'd managed to take away his past, his family, his hope: everything that made my father the person he was. He didn't recognise me, and in the state he was in now, I barely recognised him. I wiped the tears from my eyes, forced a smile to my face and said goodbye to what was left of my father.
Odin silently put a hand on my shoulder, but I pushed it away.
"I'm fine," I told him. It wasn't true, but I had to believe it for just a little longer.
I wouldn't allow myself the luxury of breaking down in tears, or of contemplating the possibility of defeat. If Lassic was trying to break my spirit or punish me for my rebellion by singling out my father for some special torment, it wouldn't work. I'd make that tyrant pay for what he had done to my family. Once Lassic was dead, I'd get Dad out of this place and make sure he had all the help he needed to get his old life back.
The exit my father had told me about and refused to go through himself was just down the hallway from his cell. A hidden lever behind a loose brick slid a wall aside to reveal a door. As elaborate as it was, it didn't seem very secure; people must only have been sent here once they'd already lost the will to leave. Was that what the robot cop thought had happened to me when I went quietly? I was looking forward to showing him otherwise.
The passage led straight outside; a wall slid out to block the exit behind us as we left, and we re-entered through the front gate.
The cop evidently wasn't smart enough to recognise me as the person who showed it a fake roadpass earlier today. Thank heaven for small mercies; if it were much smarter, it might have recognised me as Alis Landale, and then I'd really be in trouble.
"I don't need a roadpass," I said, drawing my sword.
The cop raised its blaster. Odin, Myau and I tore it apart with our weapons before it had the chance to get a single shot off. We stepped over its ruined body and left the gatehouse.
The other side of the fence wasn't as heavily guarded as I'd expected. There were monsters, of course, but they were no worse than the ones around Camineet. Either the cops patrolling the walls had just been for show, or most of the guards were stationed further in.
With that in mind, finding a cave leading deeper into the mountains made me uneasy. It looked like the only way to get closer to Baya Malay, though, and I had no intention of turning back.
I heard footsteps following me as we made our way through the cave. Not Myau's soft footfalls, Odin's heavy leather boots or Noah's sandals... no, these ones sounded almost metallic. I turned around, my sword drawn, and waited for whoever it was to catch up.
Dr. Mad had changed a little since I last saw him, but I could still recognise him. I could also see how he'd survived our previous meeting: most of his body had been replaced with mechanical parts. His eyes fixed on us (and especially on Myau) with pure hatred.
"You!" he screamed. "You haff interfered viss my master's plans for ze last time! Prepare to die!"
For all his new parts, he was no stronger than last time we met him. Our Laconian weapons cut easily through his steel body, and our shields and armour absorbed the impact of his weapons. Once again, he soon fell to the ground, apparently lifeless.
This time, though, we weren't going to take any chances. Odin took out his gun, levelled the barrel to Dr. Mad's head and fired several shots through his twisted brain. Then, just for good measure, Odin grabbed his body and started dragging it out of the cave with him.
"If he wakes up again," Odin explained, "I want to know about it so I can put him down again."
We emerged from the cave in front of a pool of lava from a nearby volcano. We heaved Dr. Mad's body into the lava; the organic parts quickly charred and blackened, and the mechanical parts made satisfying bubbling noises as they melted and sank.
"Let's see him come back from that," I said to Odin with a smile.
"I hate to be a spoilsport, but the lava's going to be a problem for us, too," Myau pointed out.
As usual, Myau had picked the most irritating time to be right. Even if we could find a relatively safe way across, the heat, fumes and stress of the journey would weaken us, making us easy prey for whatever lay in wait on the other side.
"You're right," I told him. "It won't be easy to get across. I don't want to waste any more time, but if you think we should turn back and try to find another way... well, maybe you're right. Odin? Noah? What do you think?"
"We can use the hovercraft," Noah suggested.
"Don't be silly, Noah," I said. "We can't take the hovercraft all the way here. How would we get it through the gatehouse, or that cave?"
Noah looked confused. "But the hovercraft's right over there."
I looked at where he was pointing. Sure enough, the hovercraft was parked there, silently and safely levitating at the edge of the lava on a cushion of air. We got in and found a note taped to the back of the driver's seat.
'I made a survey of the terrain surrounding Baya Malay and judged that the hovercraft would be of use to you at this point, so I used the Luveno to drop it here for you. I hope my initiative was not out of line.
Why couldn't all robots be that nice?
As we crossed the lava, a mass of writhing bluish tentacles rose from the depths and attacked our craft. They were as tough as could be expected from a creature that lived in molten rock, but we'd been hardened by months of travel and constant battle; we fought them off with little trouble.
We left the hovercraft at the far end of the lava and continued on foot. The rest of the journey up Baya Malay was a long, hard, monster-infested but otherwise uneventful climb. At the top was a tower, just as the prisoner in the gatehouse had told us. It was as huge as we'd heard it would be, literally stretching through the clouds and out of sight.
I still had no idea what was at the top, but something told me that getting up there would be only the beginning of our journey.